Cincinnati is 0-3-1 against the spread in its division, the AFC North. Keep an eye on the Bengals because they finish the season at Pittsburgh and at home against Baltimore.
Tampa Bay tied for the most losses against the spread in 2011, with 12. This season the Bucs are tied for the most wins against the number, with eight.
This week’s picks (home team in caps):
CINCINNATI (-3) over Dallas: At 6-6 overall, the Cowboys are being talked about as a playoff contender. They play in an erratic division (the first-place Giants are just 7-5), and the NFC wild-card situation is up for grabs. But we’re talking about the Cowboys. What has this group accomplished to make you think they can meet expectations and put together a string of consistent football? The Bengals have covered four straight and will capitalize on inevitable Dallas mistakes. Risking $110 to win $100.
SAN FRANCISCO (-10) over Miami: The Dolphins are traveling cross country to get demolished. The 49ers are 6-2 against the spread outside of their division, and this number would be higher if Miami hadn’t covered against New England. Following a divisional loss to St. Louis, San Francisco will return to Super Bowl form at Candlestick Park. Risking $165 to win $150.
BUFFALO (-3) over St. Louis: Jeff Fisher is building a winner in St. Louis, and the most concrete evidence in support of that statement is the Rams’ 5-0 divisional record against the spread. But Buffalo is not in the NFC West, and with the Rams playing three of their last four on the road, St. Louis is a facing a difficult finish. Risking $110 to win $100.
CAROLINA (+3.5) over Atlanta: Following a nice win in Philadelphia, the Panthers happened upon an emotionally charged Chiefs squad in Kansas City and came up short. It’s legitimate to wonder whether the Panthers, having underachieved and with no chance at the postseason, will play hard or simply float through the rest of their schedule. But Carolina is playing at home against a divisional opponent. I’m betting it shows up and competes. Risking $110 to win $100.
Last week: 2-2, minus $20. Season: 23-26-1, minus $418.Ed Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.